Glossary of terminology

NOTE: This is old. Some parts may not match current usage.


A design source file created and edited in the Graphite editor. Saved to disk as a Graphite Design Document in a GDD file. Documents can be included as layers inside other documents, and in doing so they take the form of groups. The layer graph contents of a group actually belong to the embedded document's subgraph. Because a document is a group which is a layer in the layer graph, documents have properties such as the frames in the canvas. Documents are composed of a layer graph, a defined set of properties of set data types that are imported and exported, and the properties of the root layer.


A portable mechanism for distributing a "compiled" Graphite document in a format that is immediately ready for rendering. Saved to disk as a Graphite Digital Asset in a GDA file. Assets are created by "flattening" a document's complex, nested layer graph structure into a single, simple directed acyclic graph (DAG). The Graphite editor internally maintains an asset version of any open document in order to draw the canvas live in the viewport. An asset also includes certain exposed properties of specified data types that are imported and exported, as defined by the asset's author in the source document's layer graph. They can be shared and embedded in another layer graph as a black box (meaning it can't be expanded to reveal or edit its interior graph), as compared to embedded documents from GDD files which are white boxes (they can be expanded to reveal their subgraph which can be edited). Assets are helpful for defining custom nodes that perform some useful functionality. Tangible examples include custom procedural effects, shape generators, and image filters. Many of the Graphite editor's own built-in nodes are actually assets rather than being implemented directly in code. The Asset Manager panel helps maintain these assets from various sources. The Asset Store can be used to share and sell assets for easy inclusion in other projects.

GDD file

Graphite Design Document. A binary serialization of a document source file. The format includes a chain of operations that describe changes to the layer graph and the properties of layers throughout the history of the document since its creation. It also stores certain metadata and the raw data of embedded files. Because GDD files are editable (unlike GDA files), the layers of GDD files imported into another document may be expanded in its layer graph to reveal and modify their contents using a copy-on-write scheme stored to the asset's layer.

GDA file

Graphite Digital Asset. A binary serialization of an asset file. Because GDA files are read-only and can't be edited (unlike GDD files), the layers created from assets do not offer an ability to be expanded in the layer graph of a document that embeds them. GDA files are useful for sharing assets when their authors do not wish to provide the source documents to author them. DGA files are also the input format included in games that utilize the Graphite Renderer Core Library to render graphical content at runtime, as well as similar applications like headless renderers on web servers and image processing pipelines.


Main window

Popout window

Title bar

Status bar


The part of the Graphite editor's UI that houses the panels in a window. The workspace occupies the large space below the title bar and above the status bar of the main window. It occupies the entirety of popout windows (window buttons are added in the tab bar).

Workspace layout

The specific configuration of panels in the main window and any popout windows. Workspace layout presets are provided by the Graphite editor and users may customize and save their own.

Tab bar

The bar at the top of a panel group which includes a clickable tab for each panel that is docked there. Each tab bar has at least one tab and one active tab.

Active tab

The one tab in a tab bar that is currently active. The user can click any inactive tab to make it become the active tab. The active tab shows the panel content beneath it unless it is a folded panel.

Folded panel

A shrunken panel showing only the tab bar. A panel consists of the tab bar and panel body except when the latter is folded away. The user may click the active tab to fold and restore a panel, however a panel cannot be folded if there are no other unfolded panels in its column.


Panel body

Options bar

The bar that spans horizontally across the top of a panel (located under the tab bar) which displays options related to the panel.


The area that takes up the main space in a panel (located beneath the options bar) which displays the primary content of the panel.


The bar that spans vertically along the left side of some panels (located left of the viewport) which displays a catalog of available items, such as document editing tools or common nodes.


An instrument for interactively editing documents through a collection of related behavior. Each tool puts the editor into a mode that provides the ability to perform certain operations on the document interactively. Each operation is run based on the current context of mouse and modifier buttons, key presses, tool options, selected layers, editor state, and document state. The operations that get run are appended to the document history and update the underlying layer graph in real time.


The infinite coordinate system that shows the visual output of an open document at the current zoom level and pan position. It is drawn in the document panel's viewport within the area inside the scroll bars on the bottom/right edges and the rulers on the top/left edges. The canvas can be panned and zoomed in order to display all or part of the artwork in any frames. A canvas has a coordinate system spanning infinitely in all directions with an origin always located at the top left of the primary artboard. The purpose of an infinite canvas is to offer a convenient editing experience when there is no logical edge to the artwork, for example a loosely-arranged board of logo design concepts, a mood board, or whiteboard-style notes.


An area inside a canvas that provides rectangular bounds to the artwork contained within, as well as default bounds for an exported image. The Artboard tool adjusts the bounds and placement of frames in the document and each artboard is stored in a "artboard list" property of the root layer. When there is at least one artboard, the infinite canvas area outside any artboard displays a configurable background color. Artwork can be placed outside of a artboard but it will appear mostly transparent. The purpose of using one artboard is to provide convenient cropping to the edges of the artwork, such as a single digital painting or photograph. The purpose of using multiple frames is to work on related artwork with separate bounds, such as the layout for a book.

Layer graph

A (directed acyclic) graph structure composed of layers with connections between their input and output ports. This is commonly referred to as a "node graph" in other software, but Graphite's layer graph is more suited towards layer-based compositing compared to traditional compositor node graphs.


A definition of a layer. A node is a graph "operation" or "function" that receives input and generates deterministic output.


Any instance of a node that lives in the layer graph. Layers (usually) take input data, then they transform it or synthesize new data, then they provide it as output. Layers have properties as well as exposed input and output ports for sending and receiving data.

Root layer





Data type




Core Libraries

Graphite Editor (Frontend)

Graphite Editor (Backend)

Graphene (Node Graph Engine)